Date: Tuesday, 29 March Time: 19:45 BST Venue: Wembley Stadium, London Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live, iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app
Harry Maguire has shown he can play at the highest level, according to Gareth Southgate – but the England manager warned that players “can’t be poor for a couple of years”.
The Manchester United defender’s club form has been criticised this season.
Maguire, 29, is set to start England’s friendly against Ivory Coast.
“He has got us to a World Cup semi-final and a Euros final so there is no doubt he is capable of playing at the highest level,” said Southgate.
In November, former United captain Roy Keane said Maguire’s form had been “a disgrace”.
The defender, who has won 41 caps for England, has faced more criticism in recent weeks, particularly for the way his team conceded goals against Burnley, Southampton, Atletico Madrid and Manchester City.
After Manchester United lost to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16 earlier this month, BBC Sport’s chief football writer Phil McNulty said Maguire has been playing “with an air of desperation”.
Southgate to make wholesale changes for Ivory Coast
Southgate left Maguire on the bench for Saturday’s friendly win over Switzerland, with the centre-back set to be restored to the starting XI against Ivory Coast on Tuesday.
“He was very good for us in the autumn. His club is in a difficult moment – there are any number of reasons for that,” said Southgate.
“That doesn’t mean players can be poor for couple of years and still find their way in.
“[Continuing to select players] also sometimes depends on competition for places.
“We have left some forward players out who haven’t been in good form. But there are direct and experienced replacements for those players. It is a complicated decision.”
‘There’s a difference between loyalty and stupidity’
Asked how important a game it is for Maguire on Tuesday, former England striker Chris Sutton told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Enormous. He’s had a bang average season at Manchester United, and I think that’s being kind to him.
“Gareth [Southgate] is very loyal so at this moment in time, we all think Harry Maguire will start for England in the World Cup.
“But loyalty can only take you so far. Eventually there has to be a cut-off. If his form doesn’t improve then somebody else will have to step in.
“There’s a difference between loyalty and stupidity, and if Maguire keeps performing badly then Gareth’s got no choice but to play somebody else.”